“Humans are exquisitely sensitive to context, and that can very dramatically shape what is seen in a face,” says psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard School of Medicine. “Strip away the context, and it is difficult to accurately perceive emotion in a face.” That is the argument of a new paper by Barrett, her graduate student Maria Gendron, and Batja Mesquita of the University of Leuven in Belgium. It appears in October’s Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.
The paper—reviewing a handful of hundreds of studies supporting the authors’ position, says Barrett—refutes the contention that there are six to 10 biologically basic emotions, each encoded in a particular facial arrangement, which can be read easily in an image of a disembodied face by anyone, anywhere. more